Tampa with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Wake up on the beach at the Don Cesar Hotel, located on the outer bank of St. Pete's Beach. Now owned by the Loews family of hotels and resorts, the hotel boasts luxury rooms with pampering for every guest. Two oceanside pools, the Oceana Spa and a 24-hour fitness center are just a few of the ways to enjoy this facility. Located at 3400 Gulf Blvd, the bright pink exterior is hard to miss. Rooms run between $199 and $319 a night.
Start your day at the Brunchery. Located at 3225 S. McDill Avenue, the Brunchery is famous for its fruit and nut laden french toast. But they offer something for everyone from crepes, to eggs Benedict, pancakes to protein shakes. Meals will cost between $4.49 and $7.79. Be sure to eat hearty, as you and your teens will have lots to do in Tampa Bay!
Honeymoon Island State Park. Once called Hog Island, it was renamed in 1939 by an enterprising land developer. After all, who would really want to vacation on Hog Island? Today, the park offers beaches, nature trails, snorkeling and surfing. Just across the causeway on the left side of the road is a small concession area that rents canoes and one or two seat sea kayaks. The protected intercoastal waters are the perfect place to learn the art of navigating a kayak. Imagine paddling out to one of the tiny unspoiled islands with just your son or daughter and the curious dolphins that love to swim with the tiny boats. They will occasionally leap in front of the bow to get a good look at you, or perhaps to snack on skippers. The tiny fish jump out of the water in the cool morning and evening hours. If you're a novice, bring your cell phone. And don't forget your camera.
After a long morning of paddling around Honeymoon Island, it's time to refuel. What better place than a pizza place? And not just any pizza place. Westshore Pizza & Cheesestakes offers a little taste of Philadelphia-style pizza in the heart of Florida. Westshore is locally owned, with several locations around Tampa. But if pizza doesn't sound perfect, Westshore also offers Philly cheesesteaks, hoagies, grinders, wings, Stromboli and even salads. Located at 615 Channelside Dr, Westshore offers a fun, fast meal that fills. Pizza will set you back $12.95 for cheese to $17.95 for the works. Sandwiches run from $3.99 for a plain grilled cheese to $8.50 for veal parmigiana. Wings and salads range from $4.99 to $7.99.
Just a few blocks from Westshore Pizza is the Florida Aquarium. With more than 20,000 aquatic plant and animal species, the Florida Aquarium on 701 Channelside Dr is one of the premier aquariums in the country. In the Wetlands exhibit, visitors follow a single drop of water on its long journey to the sea. There are no windows between visitors and penguins as they take their daily stroll. Want to find out more? Just hit your cell phone. Throughout the Aquarium, there are kiosks that give specific phone numbers. Dial the number and hear the audio guide. Want something more interactive? Try swimming with the fishes or diving with the sharks. The swim is open to anyone, 6 or older who is comfortable in the water. The experience is designed to give the feel of scuba diving with the safety of snorkeling. During the 30-minute program, visitors swim in a half million gallon coral reef tank with over 2,000 animals. In order to dive with the sharks, visitors must be at least 15 and certified in scuba. This 90-minute experience includes a 30-minute dive in a tank with sharks and sea turtles, accompanied by a certified dive instructor. The cost for Swimming with the Fishes is $85 and it includes admission to the Aquarium. To dive with the sharks, be prepared to pay $150. Admission to the Aquarium is $19.95 per person.
Tampa Bay is home to bottle-nose dolphins, manatees and countless species of birds and fish. The ability to protect these animals in the midst of an urban setting is a testament to Tampa's commitment to the environment. The Aquarium offers daily tours called Wild Dolphin Ecotours that take visitors around this deep water port. Be sure to bring a camera and a set of binoculars. Tickets must be purchased at least 30 minutes prior to departure and the boat will begin to board 15 minutes before departure. Tickets can be purchased alone, or, for a $6 savings, they can be purchased with Aquarium Tickets. Adult tickets for only the ecotour are $21.95. The Ecotour and Aquarium combo tickets are $35.95 for adults.
End your day in Tampa by treating your teens to a fine seafood meal, on the beach as the sun drops into the sea. Head across the causeway to Old Town St. Petersburg and enjoy a evening at the Wharf. Lobsters from Maine, crab from Alaska and local soft-shell crab have been served here since 1912 alongside steaks and chops. Located at 2001 Pass-a-grille Way, the restaurant is a five-minute walk from the water.
With its long seafaring history, St Petersburg has a history of ghosts and hauntings. Why not end the evening with a tour of one of St. Pete's most haunted hotels just a few blocks from the Wharf. And surprise! It's the Don Cesar Hotel. Mary Ellen DiPietra has collected ghost stories from guests and employees of the hotel for years. The St. Pete's Beach Ghost Tour departs from the corner of Casablanca Blvd. and Debazan Ave. and ends with a light snack in the Sea Park Cafe. Tickets are $39.95 per person for the tour and snack and must be purchased at least 24 hours in advance. And afterwords, you can head right up to your room.
If you dare!
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